Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The second-seeded Virginia Commonwealth Rams will begin their stay in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament on Friday night when they tangle with the seventh-seeded Richmond Spiders in the quarterfinal round at the Barclays Center.
The winner moves on the Saturday's semifinal round to play either George Washington or Massachusetts.
The Rams swept the Spiders in two games during the regular season, most recently winning in Richmond on March 6, 56-50. VCU now leads the all-time series by a 44-26 count.
Richmond had been reeling heading into this event with losses in four straight to close out the regular season, but it picked a good time to snap out of its funk in the second round, moving to 19-13 overall after downing 10th-seeded Duquesne, 76-64. The Spiders took a six-point lead at the half and extended that advantage to as many as 21 down the stretch, shooting 46.3 percent from the field in the process while outscoring Duquesne from the foul line, 18-4. Terry Allen busted loose with a career-high 27 points, shooting 4-of-7 from 3- point range while adding seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks for good measure. Kendall Anthony knocked down all 11 of his free-throw tries on his way to 23 points, while Alonzo Nelson-Ododa came off the bench to net 13.
Richmond's offensive attack this season has been suspect (67.0 ppg), but thankfully its play on the defensive end of the court (65.0 ppg) has kept it alive. Since Cedrick Lindsay (18.3 ppg) went down with a season-ending knee injury in early February, Anthony (16.2 ppg) and Allen (10.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) have shouldered most of the scoring load.
VCU earned the No. 2 seed by finishing the regular season 12-4, just a game behind first-place Saint Louis, and at 24-7 overall, the squad has amassed at least 24 wins in eight straight seasons. It suffered a brief hiccup in mid- February with two straight losses, but it righted the ship to close out the season with four straight triumphs, most recently downing St. Bonaventure last Saturday, 86-67, to wrap up a perfect 15-0 on its home floor. On the season, the Rams possess an effective offense, pouring in 75.6 ppg, but the key to their success has been head coach Shaka Smart's 'HAVOC' system on defense, which has allowed the team to yield just 65.5 ppg, while leading the nation in steals with 11.5 per outing. Treveon Graham is the top scorer with 15.6 ppg to go with 7.1 rpg, while Juvonte Reddic (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.1 bpg) has also been solid in the paint. Briante Weber (9.1 ppg, 3.7 apg) is an elite defender with nation-leading 3.6 spg, and Melvin Johnson (10.5 ppg) and Rob Brandenberg (9.1 ppg) have also been solid.